Excitement builds for retired racehorse show

Brazilian Wedding

This week, three ex-racehorses will prance into the spotlight of the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo as remade creatures.

Their heads will reach down into the bridles for connection. They will move up slowly into the trot, and will canter into a pretty frame, just weeks after running their last competitive races.

In proving how malleable their minds and willing their spirits, horses with names like Four X The Trouble, Brazilian Wedding, Solidify, an alternate, and High Level, will advance the pioneering work of The Retired Racehorse Training Project.

“We put four horses, including an alternate, into training right away,” says Steuart  Pittman, founder of the federal nonprofit training program. “They all have different personalities and different trainers, and they started learning from day one at our kickoff event in Maryland, with over 1,000 people packed in against the rails, watching.”

Attendees of the Maryland Horse World Expo, Jan. 20-22, snapped pictures and applauded as the horses were led to an indoor arena by the trainers who have paired up with a particular horse to prove it can be done.

  • Four X The Trouble is training with Kerry Blackmer, owner of Miles Ahead Farm, which is run from Loch Moy Farm near Frederick, Maryland. She is currently retraining eight ex-racehorses for resale, and has studied with Buck Davison.
  • Solidify and High Level are each being schooled by Tiffany Catledge, an A-rated competitor in hunter, dressage and cross-country. She operates out of Allforit Farm in Middleburg, Va.
  •  Brazilian Wedding is paired with Eric Dierks, a top-level rider with a strong dressage foundation. He runs Eric Dierks Equestrian out of Renovatio Farm in Tryon, N.C.

Four X The Trouble

Horse and rider teams kicked off the training by demonstrating the walk, trot and canter at the Maryland expo last month, then took the horses home to train in front of a national audience.

Videos and trainer blogs have filled the retired Retired Racehorse Training Project website, attracting tens of thousands of readers and viewers.

“We launched our website in December 2011 and we’ve already had 60,000 page views,” Pittman says. “And our You Tube channel, where the trainers have posted their videos, has had 35,000 views!”

People are fascinated to watch a step-by-step demonstration, showing everything from the mounting-block experience to collection at gaits, that is both instructional, and helps generate positive buzz about ex-racehorses, he adds.

“This is all part of a package to help” promote the breed to the horse-buying public “and increase demand for the horses,” Pittman says. The goal being to inspireracehorse owners to sell their horses at higher prices to the public before entering them into lower-level claiming races, he explains.

This kickoff “trainer challenge” will conclude at the Pennsylvania Horse expo with judging by leading authorities in the Thoroughbred world.

Eventing star James Wofford will join Allie Conrad, executive director of CANTER Mid-Atlantic, and Alex Brown, author of Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and his Legacy in the judging.

The show, say Conrad and Brown, is a capstone event that will highlight the hidden talents of a Thoroughbred fresh off the track.

“By showing the horse-buying public that off-track Thoroughbreds are kind, trainable and suitable for any discipline, we all win!” says Conrad. “I really applaud Steuart Pittman’s initiative to showcase ex-racers in such a forward-thinking and public way.”

Brown, a former exercise rider, says the event is a novel approach to help ex-racehorses.


“This is a fantastic program because it not only showcases how valuable an off-track Thoroughbred can be in a second career, but it also spotlights trainers” who assist ex-racehorses in fulfilling new destinies.

Pittman couldn’t be happier with the way his project has caught on. The more positive buzz and attention the horse and riders receive, the better for all connected with Thoroughbreds.

“Our mission is to encourage people to train these horses well,” he says. “These horses come off the track as athletes, and once they have good training, they’ll wind up in good homes.”


12 responses to “Excitement builds for retired racehorse show”

  1. Robin Murray

    I was lucky enough to have a source from the local track that retired their horses before they went down the claiming ranks. I have two sound (but slow ) regally bred horses from Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.I trained them western in the natural horsemanship method. They are smart and love their new jobs.

  2. Mary Wagner

    A woman in my gym has bought 2 OTTBs for her daughter and the trainer is having a terrible time with them both. Sounds like operator error to me. Without having to suggest that to this gal I told her about this program and suggested they check out the video of these trainers with their “pupils”. I hope they will as I’m sure they may be able to help themselves AND the poor horses who might not be getting the right lessons to move into their new career. Thanks for putting such a useful resource out there for people who want to take these magnificent animals in and do right by them.

  3. Roxanne Cook

    I just love reading about all the off-the-track rescues who are getting a second career. If I may make a suggestion to all the organizations who are participating nationwide, please update the horses’ status in the pedigree database so that we know what has happened to the horses following their racing career. So many times a horse is injured on the track and vanned off, never to be heard from again. News of their recovery and retraining is so uplifting. Very much like wikipedia, anyone can enter information. This is the thoroughbred database: http://www.pedigreequery.com/solidify

  4. Leslie from Newmarket, On. Canada

    What a wonderful story

  5. Robin Coblyn

    With the exception of High Level ALL these horses raced in December, Four X The Trouble raced last on December 21, Brazilian Wedding raced on December 22 and of course Solidify raced in December. While MidAtlantic may be the only “rescue” with a horse directly in this challenge there are others affiliated with it. I own Four X The Trouble and an not only working with RRTP but with Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue a 501C3 in Upper Marlboro conceive and operated by Kim Clark a former exercise rider and TB trainer herself. She has re-trained and placed hundreds of OTTB’s – see a video on a current project for a DVD series on retraining the OTTB at: http://youtu.be/2vsG6lfZlMg

    My best to all the horses and trainers in the challenge it will be a tough one to judge I think. Can’t wait to see what transpires this weekend in Harrisburg!

  6. Fran

    Just would like to point out that Solidify is from Mid Atlantic Horse Rescue in Chesapeake City, Md. Bev Strauss does a fabulous job rescuing horses at New Holland and buying and taking them from the tracks to be adopted out to forever homes. This is the only “rescue” horse(501 c 3 ) in this competition. This contest is a terrific way to get the word out about OTTB’s.Terrific trainers! I hope that folks will now take a more postive view of “rescue” OTTB’s. Solidify, in case you didn’t know, last raced Dec 2011-Bev got him immediately after that race. He is very talented & has made amazing strides thanks to Tiffany’s careful and considerate guidance.Let’s hear it for the “rescue” horse!!

  7. Natalie Keller Reinert

    “The goal being to inspire racehorse owners to sell their horses at higher prices to the public before entering them into lower-level claiming races, he explains.”

    Swoon. Mr. Pittman is such a lovely man. The more we do to raise visibility and get them back on top in the sport world, the more value they’ll have even before they’re off-the-track! There are clever trainers out there who already re-start their own TBs and get them going as sport horses… if after six weeks you have a $10,000 sporthorse instead of a $5,000 claimer, well then I think you’ve done alright…

  8. Portia

    I am so thrilled with this program and am so excited to see so many people watching and hopefully beginning to see that OTTBs and TBs in general are such great horses for all disciplines. Hats off to everyone involved and thank you for bringing back to light how awesome these horses really are.

  9. TBDancer

    Just discovered the Retired Racehorse Training Project site last night via Wendy Wooley’s blog, racehorsetoshowhorse.blogspot.com (Wendy of the Jaguar Hope/War Horse saga). Can’t wait until I have more time and can view their YouTube videos.

    My experience with the OTTB in my barn was based on common sense horse handling, reading a LOT about young green horses and “what to do next,” and asking lots of questions. People getting OTTBs now or thinking about going to a rescue/rehoming place for ex-racehorses have many more resources today.

    A good thing!

    And another good entry, Susan!!

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